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Chatting with Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo about mental health

Chatting with a champion: mental health with Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo

 

Awareness of mental health is a topic coming more and more to the forefront of conversation – even from people who you might not expect to discuss it much. One of them is Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo, currently driving for the Renault team but due to move to McLaren next year.

Everyone has their own mental image of a Formula 1 driver: someone who is almost unimaginably glamorous and self-confident, with no real worries beyond performing at their best and crossing the finish line first, motivated by millions of pounds to do so as well as their own insatiably competitive urges.

Some bits of that reputation are true: Formula 1 is unquestionably glamorous and the drivers are paid well to be international gladiators. But behind the helmets are a number of minds who are only too aware of the mental struggles that many of us face. Formula 1 drivers are just normal people like you or I in the end – and few are as normal as Daniel Ricciardo from Perth (Australia, not Scotland…) who is one of the most genuine and likeable people in the F1 paddock. He was recently talking about mental health as part of a campaign put in place by his Renault team and how this subject should never be pushed under the carpet.

 

daniel-riciardo-renault-f1-photo-talking-microphone
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team.
Renault F1 Team Season Opener, Wednesday 12th February 2020. L’Atelier Renault, Paris, France.

 

Daniel opens up about mental health

“I feel it’s an important subject: everyone needs to speak up about mental health and feel happy to do so,” he says. “It’s prevalent in all walks of life and it’s all about sharing experiences and knowledge.”

The mistake that most people make is keeping their stresses bottled up, to the point where they can sometimes spill over into wider mental health problems. And of course, everyone has their own ways of coping with stress and trying to let it out.

“I like to listen to music to help alleviate stress both at and away from the track,” adds Ricciardo. “I find I can relate to the lyrics of certain songs and they sort of speak to you, which I enjoy. I also think it’s very important to be able to switch off and things like music help me to do that. In my job as a racing driver it can be easy to not switch off. The night before a race can be tricky for this, as you’ve had all that adrenaline going around for qualifying. To combat this, what I find helps is knowing within myself that if I’ve prepared the best I can, then it shouldn’t be occupying my mind during my rest time. Something else I find very useful at the track is getting away from your work and taking a break, whether it’s something simple like a five-minute time-out or spending some time in your own head space listening to music. For me this helps reset the mind and means I can have a clearer thought process.”

The importance of taking your own time and space

That’s something we can all learn from: you don’t have to be a grand prix driver to recognise the importance of taking your own time and space to just walk away if it’s all getting too much. Formula 1 is an elite sport, but sometimes practising sport at a more amateur level is enough to help keep a balanced mind in the face of everyday frustrations.
“In my job there are so many variables and that alone will create stress,” points out Ricciardo: a situation that will probably feel quite familiar to most of us. “For example, even after a good qualifying session it quickly shifts, and you can easily start experiencing doubts about how the race will go. In order to remove these doubts and added stress factors, you have to acknowledge these thoughts and then take action, which for me might be sharing those thoughts or having a conversation with the team or engineers. Maintaining good levels of fitness is also important for me and helps me deal with stress. I think lockdown could have so easily gone the other way with me stopping exercise and training, but I didn’t and by maintaining a good fitness programme I felt mentally good during the break and I still do now. It’s at a point now that I think even when I finish racing, I’ll still keep this level of fitness up as it really helps me.”

 

renault-f1-2020-car-pitstop
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS20 makes a pit stop.
70th Anniversary Grand Prix, Sunday 9th August 2020. Silverstone, England.

How Daniel spent the lockdown

Ricciardo spent the lockdown period at his family farm in Western Australia: a vast and mostly empty landscape where he was surrounded by acres of nothing. It helped to clear his head and stick to his exercise regime, but despite the high-profile nature of what he does, the Australian doesn’t think that his own situation – and how he handles pressure – is much different to that of anyone else. “I work in a fast paced, high pressured environment but so do many others,” he explains. “I think no matter the job, the industry or your experience level, managing stress and mental health is important across the board. I hope by us talking about this it can lead to others doing the same and not feeling any guilt or shame about talking it out.”

Whether you are a Formula 1 driver or office worker, it’s easy to jump to assumptions about how someone else thinks or feels. And that’s something Ricciardo is keen to warn against.
“Nobody really knows what the other person is going through and it’s important to not judge a book by its cover,” he concludes. “What you can do is make sure that you are always there for someone and most importantly listen. Being a good listener is key. And, being patient, as you might have the answers that they might not have found yet. Another important thing is to have perspective too. I make sure to bring perspective into my thought process regularly and can do this by remembering all the positives. For example, focusing on the positives of why I love my job: it’s my dream job after all. It’s important to be able to remind yourself of things like this and not lose sight of why you are doing it just because something stressful has happened.”

Ricciardo isn’t quite a world champion yet, although with his new team moving steadily up the order, he’s got a bigger chance to do it next year. But he’s still far from the stereotype of a Formula 1 driver. As Dan says himself, never judge a book by its cover. And don’t forget that however confident anybody might seem from the outside, nobody is ever immune to mental pressure. Even a world champion.

 

All About Grounding: 5 Grounding Techniques For Anxiety

 

On Mondays we write about health and wellbeing here at ULU. So, this Monday, ULU SEO content manager, Vicky is taking the reins again to talk about grounding techniques for anxiety. If you suffer from any kind of anxiety, or just want some advice on how to be more connected and present during times of stress, then this blog is for you! Read on to learn 5 grounding techniques for anxiety.

 

Grounding Techniques

Hi, I’m Vicky, SEO content manager at ULU and long-term sufferer of a few different anxiety and panic disorders. As a perpetually anxious person, I’ve tried everything under the sun to help with stress, overwhelm and panic. (I even recently wrote a blog for ULU about my anxiety journey.) In addition to anxiety, I also have episodes of dissociation where my brain disconnects from reality and everything feels a bit ‘spacey’ – kind of like feeling drunk but without any alcohol! As a result, I use grounding to help my brain stay focused, connected and to feel more present. So, I’d love to share with you some of the grounding exercises and techniques that I find most useful!

 

What is grounding?

I first learnt about grounding during counselling. Grounding is sometimes also called ‘centring.’ It’s a mental activity or exercise that helps your brain to, quite literally, stay grounded and present. It’s used by people with anxiety or panic disorders, PTSD, sufferers of depression and it’s about staying connected to yourself, your surroundings and the present moment.

There are a variety of different grounding exercises, and the most important thing is to find something that works for you. There’s no right or wrong way to do grounding! It’s a very personal experience.

So, here are some of the most common grounding techniques for anxiety, panic and overall mental health improvement!

 

1. Check in with yourself

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from therapy is the importance of checking in with yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, or anxious, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint a reason for this. If you’re particularly busy, it can also sometimes be difficult to detect those little ‘warning signs’ that mean you’re becoming overloaded.

So, if you start to feel like something is a little bit ‘off’ or you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, check in with yourself and ask yourself ‘How am I feeling?’ ‘Is there any particular reason I’m feeling like this?’ ‘What was happening just before I started to feel anxious or stressed?’ ‘Do I need anything right now?’

Checking in with yourself is almost having a little conversation with your brain to make sure it doesn’t have any unmet needs. Just make sure to be honest with yourself – if you need a little break, a glass of water or even just a breath of fresh air, make sure to notice and prioritise that!

 

woman-outside-with-flowers-deep-in-thought

 

2. Reconnect your brain with your body

Your brain is essentially a supercomputer that sits in a little dark box inside your head. It relies on context cues and signals from your body to do its job. However, when we get stressed or anxious there’s often a disconnect that occurs between the brain and the body. As a result, it’s easy for your brain to spiral into a panic episode and it can be difficult to calm yourself down.

So, there are a variety of grounding techniques to reconnect your brain with your body. If you’re sitting down, wiggle your toes and really try to feel every moment. Are you wearing socks or shoes? If so, how does this feel against your feet. Take your shoes off and feel your feet against the floor. How does the soft carpet or the cold hardwood feel against your toes? Feel the chair against your body. Notice how you’re sitting and whether your arms are in contact with the chair or table.

Helping your brain to reconnect with reality and also your body can help to centre an unfocused brain.

 

3. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise

The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise is another way to connect your brain to your surroundings and help you to say present. It involves taking the time to notice details about your surroundings, and the way your body experiences them.

Follow the diagram below – and make sure to save somewhere you’ll remember where to find it the next time you’re feeling anxious!

5,4,3,2,1 Grounding Exercise diagram

 

 

 

4. The 4, 4, 4, 4, breathing technique

Breathing exercises are particularly useful grounding techniques for anxiety and panic. Not only do they help to stop your anxious thoughts from spiralling, they also deliver calming oxygen to your brain whilst also preventing hyperventilation.

This grounding exercise is simple: Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and then hold for another four counts. Then, carry on breathing in this way for as long as it takes to feel less overwhelmed. It can also be helpful to visualise a square whilst you do this like in the diagram shown below:

 

4444 breathing grounding techniques diagram

 

5. Allow yourself to truly feel – then let it go

When you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed it can be natural to just want to push these feelings away and to simply distract yourself. However, whilst this may feel better in the short-term, it often means that negative feelings go unaddressed – which makes them more likely to resurface at another time.

So, another piece of great advice given to me by a therapist is to sit and accept the negative feelings for what they are. Allow yourself to truly feel everything that’s happening to you. Experience the negative feelings and negative thoughts as they are, without giving into the urge to push them away.

Then, when you feel like you’ve acknowledged the worry, stress or anxiety, you can let it go. Imagine yourself standing in a pool full of water. The negative thoughts and feelings are sort of like a beach ball, floating on the water. If you try to push them away forcefully, this will disturb all the water around you and cause a splash. So, accept that this negativity and worry may bump in to you from time to time, but that they will also gradually float away from you.

 

Try grounding techniques for yourself

So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, now you have 5 grounding techniques to try out!

  1. Check in with yourself and ask yourself how you’re doing, if you need anything, or if you need to step away
  2. Reconnect your brain to your body by noticing bodily sensations and actions
  3. Try the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise to reconnect to your surroundings and stay present
  4. Carry out the 4, 4, 4, 4, grounding technique for anxiety to regulate your breathing
  5. Visualise yourself standing in water, with negative feelings as a beach ball floating in the surface – allow them to bump into you, experience them for what they are, and then visualise them floating away

Anxiety and overwhelm can sometimes come on very quickly. So, make sure to bookmark this page somewhere you’ll be able to easily locate it the next time you need to stay grounded. – And remember to share with anyone else who might find this useful!

Because here at ULU, we love u – and we want to help U love U too!

 

To read more of Vicky’s content about all things mental health, why not check out her recent article: ‘Stop and Savour the Coffee – Britain and the Glorification of ‘Busy’

 

Stop and Savour the Coffee – Britain and the Glorification of ‘Busy’

 

Those of you who follow our ULU blogs will know that Mondays are usually reserved for our PR writer, Anthony Peacock. But this week ULU content manager, Vicky is taking the reins. This week, Vicky writes about how us Brits seem to glorify being busy and how if we just slow down and cut through the distractions we might find a much more appealing way of life.

 

Stop and savour the coffee

A few months back before lockdown I met up with a close friend of mine, Will. He’s been away doing church charity work with a children’s centre in Albania for a few years now, providing a safe space, food and clothing for street kids – but he was back for a fleeting visit. So, we both agreed to meet in our favourite coffee shop in Cheltenham for a desperately needed catch-up.

I arrived late after rushing over from a client meeting – as per usual – blustering in the door and hurling out an apology. I gave him a quick hug, blurted out how happy I was to see him again after so long and then turned my attention to the coffee I felt was desperately needed after such a hectic morning.

Of course, I wanted to know all about Will’s time in Albania. So, after ordering my coffee, he told me all about his work which he described as ‘the most rewarding and challenging time in his entire life.’

Yet as he talked, he seemed different to the last time I saw him. There was a calmness to the way he spoke. I also noticed that whilst telling me about the stresses of daily life living away from home away from his friends and family and taking on a role of complete self-sacrifice in an unfamiliar country, he seemed almost serene.

 

friends-holding-coffee-mugs

 

So, of course I wanted to know his secret! As a highly-strung person who deals with stress and anxiety on a daily basis, I wanted to know how I could perhaps get a little bit of this serenity for myself. ‘What have you been taking and where can I get some?’ I think was the exact question I asked.

And what he told me was really fascinating.

Will told me that a week after arriving in Albania, himself and a few of the other church charity workers went to a local café for a cup of coffee. They all ordered their drinks and took their seats. After ten minutes or so when Will had finished his coffee, he asked if anyone was ordering another one – only to be met with some playful jokes at his expense.

‘You finished your coffee already?’

‘What’s the hurry? Have you got somewhere else to be?’

‘You drank that coffee like a true Brit! You need to learn to drink like an Albanian.’

Will was understandably quite confused. ‘What do you mean I’m drinking like a Brit?’ he laughed.

Then, Will’s Albanian friends gave him what I believe to be a very insightful and accurate summary of British life and mentality.

They said that us Brits approach everything like we’re in a rush. We order our coffee and throw it down as soon as it arrives. Then, before we’ve even had time to work out whether we enjoyed it or not, we’ve ordered another with a piece of cake. So, as a result, we never truly enjoy anything we’re doing – because we’re constantly rushing through everything as quickly as possible, always thinking about what comes next.

 

metro-train-full-of-people-during-busy-day

 

‘Us Albanians will sit for an hour with one coffee, drinking slowly and savouring every sip, taking in our surroundings, enjoying the company of our loved ones’ Will’s friend replied. ‘Us Albanians know how to just be.’  

And I noticed they were right – I had chugged my entire americano barely 5 minutes after it had arrived, yet Will was still enjoying his espresso half an hour later.

It’s true. As a society, we’re constantly in a hurry – constantly distracting ourselves with something to keep busy. We walk briskly, throwing annoyed glances at the slower walkers that block our path. We’re checking our phones mid-conversation, fiddling with the tablecloth while we wait for our food to arrive, and checking our watch every 5 minutes when timings don’t quite go to plan.

When people ask us what we’ve been up to, it’s a cultural norm to reply ‘Oh, I’ve just been so busy!’ Or, if we’ve taken a rare bit of time for ourselves, we have to almost prequalify it or justify it with ‘I was so busy last week, I just needed some time off.’

William said that spending time in Albania had taught him the value of just ‘being’ rather than ‘doing.’ Due in part to the stifling Albanian heat which makes it physically impossible to move quickly, he’s started to stop, take a break and take in his surroundings. Furthermore, in a society that doesn’t spend as much time thinking about timetables, diaries and schedules, there’s no need to strive to fill his day with plans, to make every second of his day ‘count.’ He can simply enjoy each moment as it comes.

 

man-and-woman-walking-on-the-street

 

When I think about my own life, this is something I really struggle with. I’m always busy, always running late, always thinking about what’s next on my to-do list. Then when I do take some down time to watch a movie, read a book or catch up with friends, I’m plagued with feelings of guilt. Guilt that I should be doing more, guilt that I should be productive in some way.

I know during lockdown this is particularly relevant – especially as I’ve heard a lot of people (myself included) lament over having ‘nothing to do’ or not making their time count. But during such an unprecedented and difficult period, should productivity really be our main focus? Would it be such a tragedy if we just took some time for ourselves, to switch off our phones and laptops and just be?

So, perhaps we need to be distinctly un-British for a change. Perhaps we need to take the time to notice the beauty in life, to enjoy each moment for what it is, instead of struggling to fill each moment with an activity or a purpose.

And really, isn’t this all just as simple as savouring that sip of coffee?

 

 

If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like to read more of Vicky’s content, here’s some further reading:

Vicky Smith – Laughing My Way Through Anxiety

I Tried CBD Oil For Dry Skin: My 4 Week Skincare Report

Or, if you’d like to read more from our ULU community, ULU Nation, here are some more recent articles:

Coronavirus and Travel – Business But Not As Usual

Back to Work: 19 Practical Tips For Post-Lockdown Mental Health

Roll over Beethoven: Classical Music and Mental Health According to Stephen Fry

 

This week’s community blog comes from Anthony Peacock, expert in all things PR and content. This week, Anthony writes about mental health and depression. He’ll be exploring what mental health advocate and general knowledge virtuoso Stephen Fry has to say about living with the depression and finding solace in the extraordinary works of Beethoven.

 

Roll Over Beethoven

When it comes to mental health generally and depression specifically, there’s no universal cure or answer. It’s more a question of finding what works best for you – and that could literally be anything.

Actor and comedian Stephen Fry has said, for example, that he listens to music by Beethoven as a means of coping with depression and that it has helped him when he was feeling at his lowest.

Appearing on the Art of Change podcast, the 62-year-old, who has often been open about his struggles with mental health, recently spoke about how the German composer – perhaps best known for the Ode to Joy – has helped him through troubled moments.

“There’s a healing quality to listening to it that helps,” he said. “Especially when combined with not drinking too much and walking and eating properly and all the other things that supposedly help one’s mental health. One of the ways I cope with it is to bathe myself in music like Beethoven’s and to think of people who have gone before me who have been lit by the flame of mania and doused by the icy water of depression and lived those lives of flaring up and going down and being close to the edge and how they have managed to do things and to achieve things and to retain their love and hope, and one clings to that.”

Great words from Mr Fry. And he’s not the only one. If I’m particularly stressed I’ll often reach for Italian opera or for Mozart: whose exquisitely structured and beautiful music often forms the perfect counterpoint to the chaos, turmoil and negativity that can so easily invade your mind in situations of stress. Before you even know it, these feelings can spiral out of hand towards a very dark place.

 

beethoven-with-book-of-sheet-music

 

Fry – a man renowned for his easy humour and lightness of touch – has made no secret of the fact that he has sometimes found himself feeling suicidal. In 1995 he disappeared for a few days after starting a run of a West End play, Cell Mates – because he just couldn’t take it anymore. His disappearance sparked nationwide panic, but he later explained that he probably would have killed himself had he not just walked away at that moment.

Then in 2012, he attempted suicide while filming abroad using pills and vodka, before being rescued by his producer. Significantly, he had been filming a documentary about anti-gay protesters at the time: a harrowing topic that may just have been enough to tip him over the edge on that particular day.

“Inside you just don’t see the point of anything,” he added, speaking of those moments. “Nothing has flavour or savour. Nothing has any meaning. Everything is just hopeless. There’s no future. There’s no sense of anything ahead of you. You have to hope something will stop you. In my case it was just failed attempts and waking up in a hospital.”

Adding to his depression, Fry said that he struggled with “guilt” and “shame” as he recovered from the attempt: two emotions that are common among suicide survivors. But crucially, Fry added that being able to see “colour again’ was a crucial first step in his recovery. And that’s where Beethoven came in.

“Beethoven is a perfect example of someone who brings that colour back to you quicker than almost anything else and that’s a sign you’re back,” he said.

Fry, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, is now president of the mental health charity MIND, which has done excellent work in raising awareness of this crucial issue.

“The whole point in my role, as I see it, is not to be shy and forthcoming about the morbidity and genuine nature of the likelihood of death amongst people with certain mood disorders,” he said, adding that there’s never one specific reason that people try to take their own lives.

“There is no ‘why’ – it’s not the right question,” he pointed out. “There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”

But in Stephen Fry’s view, what’s perhaps even more damaging than a mental health issue is the stigma that surrounds it in the outlook of so many other people. He reckons that one in four people suffer from mental health issues – so why is it still not widely understood?

 

 

For more of Anthony’s work, why not check out some of the articles below:

Freedom of Choice? In Favour of a Simpler Life

Anthony Peacock – Necessity: the mother of invention

Or, why not meet some other members of our ULU community: the ULU Nation

Bob McCaffrey: Photography and Finding Inspiration

Vicky Smith – Laughing My Way Through Anxiety

Reframing Lockdown: Time To Make a Change?

This week’s community post comes from Anthony Peacock, who takes care of all things PR here at ULU. Anthony has written an insightful piece about his thoughts on the current lockdown situation we all find ourselves in. If you’re in desperate need of a perception shift right now, look no further than Anthony’s thought-provoking article, Time to Make a Change?

 

Time to make a change?

What have you been up to during ‘lockdown’? People I know have reacted to it in very different ways. Some have been pacing their flats and houses like caged tigers. Others are being driven mad by the prospect of becoming part-time teachers on top of their normal jobs. And yet more are simply worried and sleepless, concerned at how long their jobs and businesses will go on for. And there are a few for whom it’s largely business as usual, going about their busy everyday lives as if not much had happened.

All of these reactions are understandable. There’s no template for how you should behave in these unprecedented circumstances. But it’s fair to say that there are more negative thoughts than positive ones, and under a regime that has been often compared to wartime, you can see why people think that way.

But more than ever, it’s important to try and see the plus side too. For all the Churchillian talk, this isn’t actually war. Nobody has to go and fight, and while the fatalities associated with Covid-19 are frightening, the numbers can’t be compared to the casualties of war.

Instead, people are only being asked to stay at home. One of the biggest regrets I often hear from people with hectic lives is that they don’t have enough time to spend with their families. These are perhaps not the ideal circumstances you’d want to be presented with that time under, but nonetheless that time is now. Furthermore, we’re all freer from distractions than usual, with the possibilities for going out being limited.

In many ways, the ‘wartime’ talk is only there because it’s a return to 1930s lifestyles for a few months. Families have to stick together and spend time in each other’s company that they wouldn’t normally. In years to come, you might just look back at this time as having been precious. Because perception of reality counts as much as the reality itself.

The chance to do stuff you wouldn’t normally do doesn’t only apply to families. Personally, I’ve spent a lot of time reading, as well as catching up on all the little tasks I’ve been meaning to do. It’s curiously liberating. Several other self-employed people say that their accounts and archives have never been more up to date and in order. And DIY supplies have also had a spike in sales, as people get round to doing jobs that have been hanging around their necks for ages.

There are films I’ve finally been able to watch as well, not to mention programmes that have been clogging up my iPlayer. And yes, it’s been great to get a bit more sleep than normal – and not feel guilty about it.

But most of all, there’s been a palpable reset to everyday working life. It gives you the time and mental space to question everything you’ve been doing up to now, to really think about whether or not you want to keep on doing things in exactly the same way in future. To make proper strategic plans, in detail, which you never had the mental bandwidth to do before. It’s so easy to get stuck into a rut and keep doing things in the same way, simply because you’ve never seen an alternative.

Coronavirus has shown everyone that they can have a different life from what they’ve been used to. Overall, it’s not a better life – but probably everyone can agree that there are certain aspects to it that are potentially better.

Most people now have a bit more time on their hands, and space to discover what it is that they really enjoy doing. Many years ago, I started writing short stories, some of which were published. I loved it but ran out of time to finish many others. Now I’ve started writing again for pleasure, having actually forgotten how much I liked it.

There’s also a greater awareness generally than before of people more vulnerable than us; a more globally social outlook now that so many people have been socially distanced. And through that, perhaps a greater realisation of what’s really important to us in life.

Most of us have dreamed at some point of a ‘career break’ but have never been able to justify it before. Now it’s happened, like it or not. And that might just lead to a new chapter, which would never otherwise have been opened.

Of course, that’s a forcibly optimistic view. But the greatest weapon we have in this common crisis is positivity, so let’s not apologise for that. It’s important to look beyond the worry of the next few months and see the opportunities out there afterwards.

Because there will be an afterwards, and chances are that the world won’t quite be the same place at the other end of this. People will of course be more aware of all the forces beyond our control, but just as aware that there are other things you can definitely influence – such as the way you work and what you do.

One final thing to think about. Moments like this occur only once in a lifetime (thankfully). When you look back at it in years to come, will you regret not making some lasting changes while you had the chance?

 

 

For more content by Anthony Peacock, read his recent musings from an airport, or his thought-provoking piece, Back to School.

Vicky Smith – Laughing My Way Through Anxiety

Hi, I’m Vicky! I take care of content and SEO here at ULU. And this week I’ve been asked to write about my own mental health and experience with anxiety for the ULU community: ULU Nation. I don’t tend to open up much about suffering from anxiety. So, writing about it is a bit scary. But I think talking about mental health de-stigmatises it. And the more that people read about mental health issues, the more they’ll understand them.

So, if you literally have no idea what anxiety is like, or if you have experienced feeling anxious and want to see what it’s like for somebody else, then look no further! Here are my answers to some questions I’ve been asked by my team:

 

How long have you had anxiety?

 I guess you could say I’ve always been highly-strung. Even from an early age I was a worrier and an over-thinker.

I had my first nosebleed from stress at age 8 – what can possibly even be that stressful when you’re 8? (I think that one was about a dodgy Pokémon card trade I made and then regretted in the playground.) So really, I’ve just always taken things too seriously.

But I don’t think I started using the term ‘anxiety’ until I was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during my second year of university – about 7 years ago.

 

What does anxiety feel like?

 Anxiety feels truly awful. I wouldn’t even wish it on my worst enemy!

I have lots of people ask me what anxiety feels like. And of course, everyone is likely to experience symptoms of anxiety slightly differently. But for me, I always explain it like this: think of a time in your life when you were really, truly nervous or afraid. Maybe it was how you felt when you were standing outside of your high school exam hall, waiting to take an exam you were entirely unprepared for. Perhaps it was the feeling you felt before you had to give an important speech or presentation. Or maybe it’s the feeling of being up really high when you’re afraid of heights.

That’s what my anxiety disorder feels – except in all of the examples I gave, there’s a reason why you might be feeling anxious or afraid. For me, there’s not necessarily any reason to feel anxious. Often, the feeling is just with me all the time, from the moment I wake up in the morning. Some days are better than others – occasionally I’ll go a few days without feeling it. But in general, anxiety is a regular part of my life.

a meme about living with anxiety jokes about anxiety

 

What about anxiety attacks?

 Ah, the dreaded anxiety attack!

Sometimes everything just gets a bit too much. If I don’t catch the warning signs or I don’t take some time to de-stress or relax, then I’ll have an anxiety attack. This usually involves not being able to breathe, having chest pains and lots of ugly crying – there’s a reason that anxiety episodes often cause people to end up in A&E thinking they’re having a heart attack!

And for me personally, I always have dissociative episodes when I get really anxious. (I feel like nobody ever talks about this! But it’s such a common symptom of anxiety.) I’ll start to forget where I am or not recognise my surroundings – even if I’m at home in my apartment! And sometimes I don’t remember large chunks of my day due to this. (It’s called ‘dissociative amnesia‘ in case you’re interested.)

 

How does anxiety affect your life?

 You might think ‘oh, that’s not so bad, you can learn to deal with unpleasant feelings!’ – and yes, to an extent this is true.

But anxiety has a wider effect that people don’t always think about! I once had a therapist tell me that when your brain is anxious, it goes into a primal ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means that an anxious brain is always on alert, always looking out for something it can perceive as a threat. It’s like your brain thinks ‘I’m feeling afraid! There must be a reason I’m feeling this way! Better be on high alert!’

And when your brain is in this state, it can affect your concentration, focus, creative thinking, sleep – and so much more!

 

How do you deal with anxiety?

 I have a few coping mechanisms I use to deal with anxiety.

In the last 4 months or so, I’ve taken up swimming regularly. Swimming is literally the only form of exercise that I can stand. You’ll never find me in the gym or (heaven forbid) going for a run. But I find that doing some kind of exercise helps train my brain to deal with feeling uncomfortable. I feel like swimming is making my brain more resilient – if I can push past feeling tired to finish my swim, then I can push past feeling anxious or upset.

I also use an app called ‘Quirk’ every day. It’s a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) app that helps me track my anxious thoughts and train my brain to look at them another way. It’s a literal lifesaver!

 

Is there a positive side to anxiety?

It’s not all doom and gloom – I promise! In recent years, I’ve learnt to look at things in a different way. I’m a believer in ‘reframing’ things – looking at negativity from another angle to see if there’s another more positive side.

And I think being anxious makes me a more caring person. – Hear me out!

Because I know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in my surroundings, or to feel socially anxious, I always try to make sure that nobody else has to feel that way. So, I always try my best to make other people feel as comfortable and at ease as possible. And I always check in on people if I know they’re having a hard time to offer a friendly ear and a cuppa! Really, I think this is quite a common trait for people who have anxiety disorders. I know a lot of anxiety sufferers who are the most caring and wonderful people I’ve ever met!

(That realisation cost me thousands of pounds in therapy. So, if you’re an anxious person, there you go – I’m giving you this one for free!)

 

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading my anxious ramblings! I hope I haven’t made myself sound too crazy.

But if you have someone in your life who suffers from anxiety, make sure to check in on them from time to time to see how they’re doing! You never know when someone might be in need of a friendly face!

 

For more content from the ULU community: ULU Nation, read Anthony Peacock’s insights on what we can learn about human behaviour from the airport.

For more content related to anxiety, readAnxious Times’ – a blog from ULU founder, Paul Hembery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pablo’s Monday Blog – Anxious Times

 

 

We start the decade and already we hear and read about troubling times across all regions of the world. With the speed of communication today, and the integrated networks, it does make life seem that there are only negative happenings and events in continuation. Maybe the old adage that ignorance is bliss rings true. Because today we are not protected from any event in any far reached corner of the world, we are told about them in real time. Indeed, I rather find the news shows a negative place to start or finish a day. In isolation, we are helpless to effect or impact these events and that can lead to a feeling of helplessness and anxious times.

 

Left Behind: Illegal, Medicinal Cannabis Use

Which made the publication of the excellent report by Dr. Daniel Couch for the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis  “Left Behind: The Scale of Illegal Cannabis Use for Medicinal Intent in the UK” most relevant and intriguing to read (you can find the link HERE). The report is based on a YouGov survey of 10,000 users and highlights that 3% of the UK population uses cannabis to treat a medical condition, with usage across all genres, social classes and age groups. Hence whilst cannabis use is illegal unless prescribed, nearly 1.4 Million users take risks to treat their medical conditions. 

To sum up the YouGov results the following reasons and numbers are given for the use of medical cannabis: 653,456 people are estimated to use cannabis to deal with depression. A further 586,188 for anxiety, 326,728 for chronic pain, and nearly quarter of a million people treat their arthritis. Overall that is a lot of people dealing with a multitude of health issues. 

Obviously this got me thinking, whilst ULU does not sell medicinal cannabis, we do know that a number of our customers and team do find benefits from using CBD to treat some of those conditions, particularly anxiety. On a personal level, it helps me control the arthritis I have in my right knee created from too many rugby injuries suffered in my youth. 

Of course our CBD does not contain THC (the compound that gives you the high) and is therefore legal. Click on the link to buy ULU Full Spectrum 10% CBD Oil 1000mg/10ml

 

Try some Bob Proctor

Which brings me back to the overly negative media we now live with. I suggest keeping to a minimum your exposure to the latest news. And also focus the start and end of your day to the positive aspects that exist in your life. To help you achieve this, I am a big fan of Bob Proctor, and this video LINK is worth 10 minutes of your time. It will help put into perspective the negativity that can create these high levels of depression and anxiety.

Have a great week!

Pablo 

ULU 

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